The Fraser Valley Bird Trail follows the flow of the Fraser River through four distinct communities, with ample birding opportunities around each bend. As the longest river in the province, the Fraser River’s fertile habitats include dense forest, wetland, farmland, and more. Home to many resident birds, this area also welcomes more than 200 distinct species each year who use the Pacific Flyway during migration. 

Birding Along the Mighty Fraser

The sheer variety of birding locations in the Fraser Valley area means you can enjoy beautiful riverside strolls observing ducks, mergansers, grebes, and other waterbirds who make the river their home, or explore lush forests home to Bald Eagles, owls, woodpeckers, and plenty of songbirds. From Langley to Harrison, this trail outlines dozens of incredible opportunities for birders of all experience levels to spot many unique birds.

Waterfowl like Northern Pintails are a common sight along the Fraser River. Photo by Shayne Kaye.

Less than an hour’s drive from downtown Vancouver (or a ~40min Skytrain and ~20min bus ride) takes you to the start of this trail in Langley. Citylife meets nature’s bounty as you explore the area and take advantage of the local shops and eateries while enjoying the riverside parks and birding locations. As you travel up the Fraser River and leave the city behind, keep your eyes peeled as birds can often be seen hanging out on farm field fence posts or soaring above the river.

Where to See the Birds

If you’re looking to spend a day dedicated to birding, these are some of the best locations to spend the majority of your birdwatching. 

Cheam Lake Wetlands Regional Park 

East of Chilliwack and south of Harrison Hot Springs, this 107-hectare park has easy walking trails that go through forest and marsh habitats. It also has a floating boardwalk that leads to a viewing platform on the lake, a great spot to stake out for birdwatching. Known to be home to over 180 different bird species, you’re likely to see waterfowl like Wood Ducks, Northern Pintails, and American Wigeons, Barn, Tree, and other swallows, Yellow Warblers and other songbirds, woodpeckers and perhaps even bigger predators such as owls, osprey, and Bald Eagles. 

The viewing platform at Cheam Lake is good spot for a rest and some stationary birding.

Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve 

Located in Chilliwack, this nature reserve is one of the best places to see the nesting habitat of Great Blue Herons. It’s home to one of the largest heron nesting colonies in the Lower Mainland, making it a great spot to learn all about this prehistoric looking bird. There is an interpretive centre that is managed by the Society and the reserve itself has multiple trails outfitted with bird blinds, perfect for quietly observing birds. Head up to their observation tower for a “heron’s eye view” of the surrounding area.

Learn more about the habitats of the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve.

Willband Creek Park

This urban wetland on the Sumas Flats in Abbotsford is a mixture of marsh, grassy field, and treed areas, also containing a creek and two large water detention ponds. Enjoy the 2.6-kilometre outer trail, or one of the many interconnecting trails, and keep an eye out for Great Blue Herons, Northern Shovelers, and Belted Kingfishers.

Watch for Belted Kingfisher’s diving into the water to catch a meal. Photo by Christina Schulz.

Derby Reach Regional Park

Enjoy a walk or bike through 12.9 km of forested trails nestled along the banks of the Fraser River in Langley. For lunch, grab one of many picnic tables in the area. This is a great spot to see a variety of local and migratory birds, such as warblers, woodpeckers, and waterfowl like mergansers, grebes, and ducks. Possible exciting sights include American Kestrels and Red-Tailed Hawks, and even Turkey Vultures have been spotted in the area during late summer and early fall.

Derby Reach has lots of spots to watch for birds over the river.

Lhá:lt/Harrison-Chehalis Wildlife Management Area

Stretching the entire Harrison river, this breathtaking area encompasses part of the Chehalis River Estuary IBA (Important Bird Area). Protected from any activities that threaten the local wildlife, this is a safe haven for birds of all kinds and is especially known as a great place to observe Bald Eagles feeding on the salmon in the fall. In the winter, Trumpeter Swans make their appearance, attracting many birders, and Peregrine Falcons are also known to nest in the area. You can follow the Eagle Viewing Trail at the Sandpiper Resort for the first of many spectacular views.

Observe Bald Eagle behaviours as they feed off the spawning salmon. Photo by Pete Nuij.

Within the Fraser Valley Bird Trail, there’s plenty to discover many birds to see. You might even get lucky and catch an exciting rarity like a Gyrfalcon visiting from the Arctic! You can plan your next birding adventure using our self-guided itinerary to pick and choose how you’d like to explore the Fraser Valley region.

As a general reminder when exploring any public spaces that are also popular birding habitats, please help to protect habitats like these and the wildlife they support. Stay out of wildlife reserves and management areas; keep to the trails and leash dogs. For more information about how to bird responsibly, check out our previous Field Notes post

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